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Religulous

Movie title: Religulous (2008)
Grade: No grade given
Rated: R
Summation: Bill Maher’s take on world religions.
Spoilers ahead: NA

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This review is late, way late! The release of Religulous was on October 1, 2008 and only now am I getting to review it. Why is that? Because down in the south where I live, even we movie critics couldn’t get it because we’re in the Bible Belt and most theatres wouldn’t carry it. We have the always tolerant, loving, and nonjudgmental Jesus-courters to thank for that. What I had to do to finally get a demo copy of the film was quite disgusting. It involved me in the back seat of a 1996 Buick Skylark getting down and dirty for 35 minutes with a tranny hooker named Philecia.

Okay, now that I made you chuckle, I’m about to turn the floor over to a real comedian, Bill Maher, creator of the hilariously offensive documentary. Being an avid and outspoken atheist myself, it would be biased of me to put a grade on Religulous unlike the rest of my reviews at holmansmoviereview.com. To say that I agree with Maher’s conclusions should be obvious. So, I’m sitting this one out and letting Bill Maher do the promoting of godless activism for right now.

Maher’s travels for the project took him to Israel in Megiddo, the Mt. of Olives, to Italy to the Vatican where he was thrown out, to the Netherlands to visit a weeded-out “God” junkie, and to some other places in the United States (including the Mormon Temple in Utah where he was bounced from the property) to get feedback on those coats of many colors called God and religion.

What’s the problem with the world? The problem is religion and timing: “Before man figured out how to be rational and peaceful, he figured out nuclear weapons and how to pollute on a catastrophic scale,” says Maher. It is the intolerance generated by religious convictions that gives man the false assurance that he is right and cannot be wrong.

Maher makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and sometimes you even want to sympathize with them. Take, for instance, a chapel for truckers in North Carolina where Maher stops in to ask some questions. Within minutes of filming, one of them says: “You start disputin’ my god, then you got a problem.” But the problem with people like that is not disputing God. There’s no critical thinking going on. “I’m promoting doubt.” Maher says. “The other guys are selling certainty, not me.” How should we think? We should learn from our mistakes and realize that nobody has all the answers: “History is just a litany of getting shit wrong.” And “Religion is dangerous because it allows people who don’t have all the answers to think that they do.”

Dr. Francis Collins, the world’s leading DNA expert, is questioned on his adhering to Christian convictions while 93% of all scientists in the National Academy of Sciences are either atheist or agnostic. I would like to have seen more of the interview with Dr. Collins, which I felt was a bit too heavily edited.

Other interviews were gut-busting-ly funny, sometimes to the poing of being awkward, like Maher’s interview with “ex-gay” pastor John Wescott. Just watch, and if you don’t cringe, I’ll give you a dollar! Democratic senator Mark Pryor is on tape admitting that the earth might be 5,000 years old. The creationist movement’s Ken Ham is interviewed just after a shot of a rhino with a saddle on it.

After getting booted from the Vatican, Maher’s interview with a crotchety old priest is a gem. Being questioned about the church’s condemnation of sinners to Hell, the priest says: “That’s all nonsense. That’s the old Catholic church.” Well, that’s good to hear!

Brilliantly incorporated archived footage of political coverage, televangelists, and world events gives the presentation an extra-outrageous appeal. One of those is of Kirk Cameron and his usual spewing forth of ignorance, this time on making converts. The believer must “learn to circumvent or go around the person’s intellect.” Yep, that’s what the religious must do to convert anyone. If you think about it, it all falls apart. Don’t think! Just believe!

Religious idiocy is cleverly exploited as Rabbi Schmuel Strauss is interviewed. The man works for The Institute of Science and Halacha, inventing products that allow for modern conveniences without breaking the Sabbath. A phone is showcased that can dial itself. If you put a stylus in a number of the number you want to dial, the phone will stop inhibiting dialing at the number, which it tries to do automatically every second, so as to not violate one of the 39 prohibitions set by modern Jewish leadership against pushing buttons, and therefore, allowing the use of a phone on the Sabbath. Things get more comical with a wheelchair propelled by air thrust to avoid anyone having to push it on the Sabbath.

Maher interviews Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda, a man with 100,000 followers worldwide who believes himself to be the second incarnation of Christ. A radical Muslim Aki Nawaz is interviewed, a man who raps about and openly believes in suicide bombings, and upholds the death threats made against Salmon Rushdie.

On faith, Maher says “Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking.” And “Those who preach faith and enable it and elevate it are intellectual slaveholders.” It is religion that destroys mankind. “Religion must die for mankind to live.”

The conclusion is that religion is crazy – crazy funny – but mostly just crazy. Religious people are crazy. Their religion makes them that way. Religulous is about getting the world humble enough to admit that anyone can be wrong—adored religious saints and their holy books alike. If the things religious people believe were found in any other book, they’d be denied and called fairy tales. But since those things are in the Bible, they’re given a pass on conforming to rationality. None of their proponents know what they are talking about and have no more certainty in answering life’s big questions as their fellow religious loudmouths or your local “I’ll believe it when I see it” village atheist.

Religulous is 100 minutes and 56 seconds of realism with comic relief where Christians, Jews, Mormons, and Muslims all get roasted. Spliced in with the interviews are charts, facts, and movie clips that will probably have you rolling laughing. The open-minded and non-fundamentalist religionists are encouraged to see the film as it will provide great entertainment. If you are a closed-minded, straight-laced fundamentalist, run. But if you do decide to see it, be prepared to throw a shoe at the screen.

(JH)

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Director: Larry Charles
Starring: Bill Maher
Genre: Drama

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